Monday, April 30, 2007

Well, Someone Need Miss All the Excitement

Well, as I predicted, I was far too late to our Victorian virtual world to make other than a extraordinarily late appearance. So, I am still getting much of the excitement second hand. For those who did not hear, apparently there was a bit of a fracas with the Neualtenberger set and Colonel O'Toole's group of nattily attired (if the seamstress might say so herself) Secret Policemen.

Now, just for the record, the whole affair was nothing but a pre-scripted cinema verite (if one can be said to such a thing in Second Life). So please, please stop sending Mr. O'Toole nasty postcards. Not even the French ones, which I am told by reliable authority that he likes.

Misunderstandings aside, it went down well enough, and a smashing film of the whole thing can be seen on Mr. Oolon Sputnik's blog (The 500 Year Diary, link to the right). I do so look forward to flying forth in a Vickers armed ornithopter to give what for to the Enemies of Caledon. Whoever they are--actually I'm a bit confused right now. But I never was good at following mystery novels. I'm rather the type who said at the end of Mansfield Park, "Good Lord! Fanny marries Edward in the end!" (hope I didn't spoil that).

Oh, speaking of Miss Austen, I received a letter from a Miss DeeDee Peccable who runs the Second Life Jane Austen center. She very politely asked me if I might be willing to help her make Regency attire for her center. Well, does a pig have steam retro rockets? Jumping at the excuse to waste time oogling early 19th century paintings, I drummed up the following little frock on Sunday (Miss Peccable on the left, I on the right)

Then afterwards, we nipped over to her shop in Pemberly (of course) (a search for "Jane Austen" should do the trick. I swear I shall figure SLURLs very soon!).

She has all the Austen paraphenalia one could want there, and the music is quite nice on the parcle. I have to admit a tad bit of disappointement that Pemberly is more of a modern residential neighborhood than anyplace I might spot Mr D'Arcy out hunting with Mr Bingley. But things start a step at a time, and Miss Peccable's shop is a fine first step. She is speaking of having a Regency themed ball in the near future, so if nothing else I need start thinking of some clothing for the men of the period as well. I do have Napoleonic uniforms, but we need something for the non-martial Austen heros too! I think such a thing would be grand indeed--if you are similarly inclined, do shoot her an IM and ask to become a "Janeite" (lover of Miss Austen).

Well, dear reader, until next time!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Steam City!

Well, it's not open just yet, but I took an excursion there this morning. RL relatives are about in town, pleasant enough people in small doses, but it's been a few weeks now. I don't mean to criticize, but it is quite clear that back in Miss Austen's day, house guests understood that we could all sit about in comfortable mutual silence in a room, enjoying the genial comfort of a friend or close relation nearby. Nowadays, I think that, sans television (which does not, and will not exist in my salon, or anywhere else), people (meaning said relatives, I must admit) will wander over to the nearest cathode ray tube (if that is what powers my little difference engine) and lean over one's shoulder. Commentary invariably ensues, I am afraid, putting a bit of a dampener on the romance novel (yes, yes, I am writing one. Hush, now). Second Life is quite out of the question.

Well, I suppose in a round about way, I am making my apologies to my Caledonian friends for not being at the Reconciliation Ball tonight. As a Captain of the Caledonian Air Corps, I ought be there in full dress uniform. But I shall be wining and dining the guests, and it would hardly do to run into the back room for a turn about the floor with some braid-clad fellow.

Hmmm...the imagery in that last sentence is suspect. Ah well, all blogs are first draft.

I did get a chance to play about in the shop this morning. I received some lovely brass gauges in the post from Mr. Pearse, perfect for my Top Secret Project. As I told him, he truly knows how to warm a lady's heart. Well, a Steampunk girl's, any road. Then Mr. Sputnik passed by and obligingly allowed me to calibrate my Heat Ray on him, then tested it against a little horseless carriage I have on hand for such purposes. I wish I could show you the photographs, but it was all Very Top Secret. Mind you, I think I may have edged him a tad closer to his next Time Lord regeneration.

Oh! Photographs! I sometimes think myself almost clever, and using the combined technology of my Robo-TeaTyme-Teddy and Mr. Eastman's brownie, was able to create a Photographic Brownie drone for an aeronautical excursion. I apologize for the lesser quality of these prints, but my Brownie is not up to the standard of more terrestrial based photographic equipment.

So, drone behind, I launched off the laboratory platform in the Port and headed south to the Southern Sea, wherein the still under construction Steam City lies. As you can see here, it is still on its landing gear. I am not sure if it will be airborne in the end or not, but suffice to say, the construction would be a bit trickier if the main supporting engines were spinning away at full bore!

Here I am on landing approach, under the mid section. One can see the clever observation deck my good friend and business colleague Doctor Whittlesea put together. I cannot wait to take tea there someday! I do so love vertigo.

I popped into the hangar deck to toss on a few more pounds of coal (IOU is in the scuttle, just for the record). When this is finished, my little workshop/aeronautical shop will be here. Behind me are the beckoning doors leading to the limitless blue sky. Oh, and should you pop by once Steam City is open, I will have loaner ornithopters about for you to try your hand with.

All coked up, I was ready to explore the topside. I am afraid my drone caught me dipping my starboard wing on the top of my exiting Immelmann. Ah well, it is a German maneuver. Do I look like a Baby Bothering Bosch? Er....I mean to say, "Misunderstood Current Friend of Our Glorious Nation" Perhaps it's all for the best that I won't be at the Reconciliation Ball tonight :P

Rolling out, we can see a wider view of the top, as well as Mr. Zeppelin Duesenberg's lovely airship in the distance. Yes, those towering devices you can see are the supporting airscrews!

Hrmph...I had two more photographs to share, but this blog is being recalcitrant. Perhaps I have exceeded my post limit. Ah well, I shall show them soon enough. Besides, mustn't be tedious with one's holiday postcards!

Edit: Here they are. A bit of flotsam (or is that jetsam) in the water below. I believe it will be cleaned up. But in the meantime, it is splendid for playing a sort of reverse ring toss with an ornithopter!

And finally, northward again, heading back to the Old Caledon (as we locals have started calling it). As a side comment, Old Caledon is still an amazingly beautiful sim, but has been woefully deserted since the opening of Victoria City to the distant east. I do hope that having such a vibrant sim to the immediate south will introduce others to the lovely walks and builds of Caledon I again.

A splendid morning all told, but it shall even be more splendid once we future landholders are let loose upon our new Aerial Demenses :)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Journals, and Diaries and Logs, Oh My!

I have finally sat down and added links to all the "blogs" and whatnot of my fellow Second Life Steampunk/Victoriana Obsessed/Costume Crazed/Generally Fun people I know.

However, I am a certified God-Help-Us at times, so do drop me a line if I have forgotten you--or most likely the fact that you have such a diary. Also, I am always looking for such aforementioned places, so do let me know if you see something particularly good.

Oh, obligatory "dearest diary" entry. Yesterday found my stack of madly scribbled foolscap I call a novel done, as in edited. A far more painful and logical process then the joy of creation. I am certain there is some analogy to children here, but as I am not a mother, I shall desist lest I appear silly.

Thus I found myself in Second Life again, playing with a TOP SECRET prezzie project for Miss Rothschild's upcoming birthday fete on the fifth. I am getting rather enthused about the whole thing, and I don't think it would spoil anything to say that I am learning all sorts of things about how to do animations and particle effects. But, drat those link messages! They ought be such simple things, but if one thinks about it, commanding individual objects in Second Life is akin to demanding obedience from one's puppy. She might very well have the best of intentions, but sometimes it takes time for said command to work its way from her fuzzy ears to her little paws. So, perhaps the "sit" or (in the case of animation) "move" doesn't happen quite as fast as it ought. Multiply this tendency by a number equal to several linked objects, and you have the proverbial cats on the drill field. I think that's a proverb.

Ah well, it works well enough in lower system lag, and I will leave certain aspects securable for higher lag conditions. I do hope she likes it.

P.S. For all who might have seen a combat version (the drums are sounding at the border, Reconciliation Day tomorrow or not), please please, do not breath a word of this. I suppose I ought not have tested it next to the Anvil during Happy hour (apparently the fact that it was Wednesday did not dissuade the Caledonian Revelers). Also, be assured that I will be giving Miss R a peaceable toy, as befits her kind nature. Besides, would so very much hate to see a tea party disrupted with wayward Heat Rays.....

P.P.S. Speaking of birthdays, Miss Paravane and I have discovered to our delight that we were born fair simultaneously in RL! I need point out that as she was born in India, that does make her a tad older than I (who almost missed the day besides). More on this later. Suffice to say, we will be having a simple fete, as there are many that day anyway. What day you ask? Why, Mayday :)


I almost forgot to add photographs! And what is a blog without pictures and conversation? I can supply the former at least. Here I am, visiting the New Babbage Nickolodean, where I saw (appropriately enough) a Magic Lantern showing of coloured Tenniel illustrations. Curiouser and curiouser....

Thursday, April 26, 2007


My Australian friend Mr. Edward Pearse has an eloquant picture and poem about ANZAC Day (which was yesterday) on his blog "Through the Filter of a Victorian Aesthetic".

As for myself, I am not so eloquant, so I will let the the songwriter Eric Bogle speak, instead. In the meantime, I shall wear the red poppy.

And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

When I was a young man I carried my pack
And I lived the free life of a rover
From the Murrays green basin to the dusty outback
I waltzed my Matilda all over
Then in nineteen fifteen my country said Son
It's time to stop rambling 'cause there's work to be done
So they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun
And they sent me away to the war

And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we sailed away from the quay
And amidst all the tears and the shouts and the cheers
We sailed off to Gallipoli

How well I remember that terrible day
How the blood stained the sand and the water
And how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter
Johnny Turk he was ready, he primed himself well
He chased us with bullets, he rained us with shells
And in five minutes flat he'd blown us all to hell
Nearly blew us right back to Australia

But the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we stopped to bury our slain
We buried ours and the Turks buried theirs
Then we started all over again

Now those that were left, well we tried to survive
In a mad world of blood, death and fire
And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
But around me the corpses piled higher
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over tit
And when I woke up in my hospital bed
And saw what it had done, I wished I was dead
Never knew there were worse things than dying

For no more I'll go waltzing Matilda
All around the green bush far and near
For to hump tent and pegs, a man needs two legs
No more waltzing Matilda for me

So they collected the cripples, the wounded, the maimed
And they shipped us back home to Australia
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla
And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay
I looked at the place where my legs used to be
And thank Christ there was nobody waiting for me
To grieve and to mourn and to pity

And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As they carried us down the gangway
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared
Then turned all their faces away

And now every April I sit on my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me
And I watch my old comrades, how proudly they march
Reliving old dreams of past glory
And the old men march slowly, all bent, stiff and sore
The forgotten heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask, "What are they marching for?"
And I ask myself the same question
And the band plays Waltzing Matilda
And the old men answer to the call
But year after year their numbers get fewer
Some day no one will march there at all

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me
And their ghosts may be heard as you pass the Billabong
Who'll come-a-waltzing Matilda with me?

copyright © Eric Bogle

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Cromwell Dixon

I have this old Time-Life book about the house entitled rather unimaginatively "1900-1910". Like most books of its ilk, there are a number of interesting pictures coupled with rather undescriptive, overly simplistic captions. Still, if you should ever see it lying about in a used bookshop, I would encourage its purchase, if naught else but for the excerpts from lonely hearts columns of the Victorian Period (sample question: "Is there anything wrong with holding hands with a young man in public?")

Well away, the one picture that always captured my imagination was a 1908 picture of an airship the young (14!) Cromwell Dixon had made, piloted by his mother. The caption told me that he had lost his father at a young age, so his mother encouraged his interest in things aeronautical (presumably to keep him out of trouble). That and and a reference to his "SkyCycle" was about all I had to go on.

I am not unfamiliar with search engines, but for whatever reason, I only recently located more information on Cromwell. Indeed, he HAD made a Sky Cycle at age 14, the story having it that his mother sewed up the gasbag for him. As the name suggests, it was powered by a converted bicycle hooked up to a twin bladed airscrew.

He seems to have only flown that for a year at State Fairs, towing the American Flag behind him. Then he had caught enough attention to move onto powered aircraft such as the Dixon airship, here pictured piloted by his mother in that photo that caught my attention.

I suppose the story really caught my imagination in two ways. For one, isn't the SkyCycle just the sort of thing a child would think of? I mean, it is completely out of some children's adventure novel (the sort some seemed to think boys along would like--as if Carroll and Baum hadn't pointed out quite clearly that girls like that sort of thing too!). And secondly, as much as I love the story of the young Cromwell, the suffragette in me need point out that his mother had just as much a hand in his adventures as he did. She sewed the blessed thing together, and though he might have done the exhibitions, it is clear that she flew the craft as well. But, especially in that day, a child prodigy is much more saleable than a middle aged woman risking her neck.

And that brings us to the part of the story Time Life didn't cover, and I just found out a month ago. I suppose I ought have wondered why more people hadn't heard about Cromwell. Certainly, he was quite famous in his time, and he quickly realized all his boyhood dreams (and perhaps his mother's as well) by being invited to design new heavier than air flying machines. Here he is, looking rather dashing at the still callow age of 19:

Shortly thereafter, the boy genius died in a plane crash at a fair in Spokane, Washington.

How odd. Cromwell would have passed from this world by now, yet when I read that, I cried as if it had happened that morning to someone I knew. Perhaps I could not help but think of what Mrs. Nellie Dixon's thoughts were like. I didn't find anything more about her after her son's death. I don't imagine that she kept flying.

Make no mistake about it, in the day, flying was an extremely dangerous activity. The list of pioneers who perished pursuing the ancient dream is long--at a rough guess, I'd say half the pilots of the pre-Great War died in crashes. It was not always the pleasant frolic that it is in the virtual Steampunk world I spend so much time in.

But that doesn't mean that Cromwell and his mother were wrong to pursue that dream. And I won't let them pass from my memory, either. Shortly after reading all that, I went out and made my own, virtual SkyCycle--

And I don't think it is pretension to say that, if I could, I would happily hop aboard a real SkyCycle and go at it. Sadly, neither my RL craftsmanship, sewing nor funds will permit such and endeavor. But there are still some Cromwell Dixons out there, as this little airship I found out about on the Brass Goggles blog attests to

Who knows, perhaps someday :) But in the meantime, should you be strolling about the virtual streets of Caledon, do look up. You might, perchance, see a madwoman pedaling as fast as she can, remembering the past and having more than a bit of fun doing it!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Ideas, Ideas....

I spotted this over on the delightful Brass Goggles blog--

With even more photographs here:

(Hmm, must learn to insert links better. Believe or not, I am bit of a Luddite)

Well, it just so happens that at Sir ArthurConan Doyle's request, I made a replica of the tricycle for two that the original Sir Arthur went riding about with his wife on (one can see the original photo leaned up against the replica)

Modifying the latter into the former looks like a project for a pleasant afternoon, though I really must learn to restrain myself with the detail, lest I go over the prim limits for vehicles. I find adding parts to vehicles via avatar attachments a bit cumbersome at time. Still, if I want that lovely "surrey style" sunshade, I might have to.

Rubbing hands together in girlish glee....

Monday, April 23, 2007

Opening Day

Had a fair good showing for Sunday at the Annie Londonderry exhibit. I love the "Who was she? She did what? When?" reactions. Really, I sometimes think that the amazing thing about her story is that more people haven't heard of it. Still, as I read more and more about the 19th century, the more I realize that there were some incredible people, who did incredible things, but for whatever reason they aren't widely known today. Much had to do with publicity, of course, but often, they were well known in their day (while Annie did not get a large sendoff, she arrived back home to cheering crowds). It's really just the vagaries of history.

Happily, we sold a fair number of the Sterling replicas (if one can call a virtual cycle a "replica"). They're still on sale there for 100L each, and all proceeds will go to the Second Life Relay for Life campaign which raises money for the American Cancer Society. I have to admit I'm a bit proud of the cycle--I managed almost all the details I wanted, including the animated rider, wheels. In case anyone wonders, the bundle on the left is the American flag (she would fly it when she came into towns), and yes, she carried an umbrella, as can be seen in this photo:

And just to assuage my vanity, here are a few pictures of yours truly, attempting my best Annie imitation:

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Annie Londonderry

Who was Annie Londonderry, you ask? Well, in brief, she rode a cycle around the world in 1894/1895, becoming the first woman to do so (the trick had been done ten years earlier by a fellow). But that doesn't really convey what she accomplihed. The physical challenge along was enormous. She was five foot even and a hundred pounds, with little cycling experience (she claimed none). Yet she rode a 21 pound, single speed cycle around the world on muddy roads--when there were roads at all. She actually started on a 42 lb cycle, but like her "lady's riding outfit", that was eschewed by the time she got out of the States.

At the start:

Towards the end (looks as if she's lost a stone or so :P)

But truly, consider her times. Mind you, I think there are many things about the Victorian era that I mourn the passing of. But inequality of the sexes (NOT the same thing as being identical) is not one of them. Annie was, among other things, Jewish (her real name was Annie Cohen Kopchovsky) and female in a time where neither attribute was likely to open doors to adventure. But adventure she did! When one reads her story (in full at, one cannot help but think of the reaction of young women of the time--for her exploits were widely chronicled (Annie had a flair for publicity, and would later become an investigative reporter). They must have thought "If she can do THAT, why, what can I accomplish?".

And over a hundred years later, neo-Victorian that I am, I ask myself that whenever I see obstacles. And also, of course, every time I assail a hill on cycle!

Well, today, I put up the Annie Londonderry exhibit in New Babbage at the Undershaw Restoration Society. I had put it up on Thursday, but autoreturn was still on the parcel...whoops! For once, the Second Life coalesce feature worked to my advantage--that's the function whereby all your items that got returned are grouped under one solitary item's name. So, say one sets up an entire dance with 20 odd dance sets at 375L each. They are autoreturned, and together they all show up in your folder under the explanatory heading of "object". Ask me how I know these things....

But this time, it worked out, as I rezzed but one picture and half the exhibit appeared, all aligned with that one picture as they were when autoreturned. Speaking of pictures, one is worth a thousand words....

And here is the Undershaw Restoration Society, and the exhibit up. The big book like thing is, amazingly enough, a book (and free to copy, should you show up). It is a slightly abridged version of Annie's story, as told by her great grand nephew, Peter Zheutlin. It can be read in world by clicking on it and turning the pages (works very well if attached to your HUD point. Click attach to do that).

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Girl Catches on...

Well, I am no Girl Genius (however much I try...)

But, "spark" or no, I have discovered how to put links up! So, for your viewing enjoyment, do peruse some of the links to the right. I shall speak more of Miss Londonderry (the first woman to ride around the world) in the near future, as I am currently moving her Second Life museum from my shop to the Undershaw foundation in New Babbage.

Suffice to say, she is a major inspiration for me, so much so, that despite the prevelant cold (I thought this was April :(), I shall hop on my Real Life cycle in a moment and brave 10 or so miles. Um, well, perhaps I am no more Annie Londonderry than I am Agatha Clay...ah, well. Heros provide inspiration even if one can never hope to reach their heights.

And, for not reason whatsoever, here is a picture of my friends Miss Fuschia Begonia and Professor Avalanche in Caledon Tanglewood (Victorian Fantasy) attire:

Oh, hullo

*taps microphone*

Is this thing on? Oh, good.

Such a cliched way of opening a blog, n'est ce pas? But I frequently fall back upon the "done before", having the reactionary tastes I do. In fact, it is with utmost trepidation that I start a blog at all. I was dragged somewhat kicking and whimpering into the 20th century, I am not sure I am ready for the 21st. Might I have the 18th, if I can choose?

Now then. I am Miss "Virrginia Tombola" within the confines of the Second Life game, and as I would like to preserve such anonymity, I shall remain such here as well. Blogs seem to be quite the thing in the "land" of Caledon (a Steampunk simulation which is my second home in many ways). If I can discover how to link to my fellow Caledonian's blogs, I shall. Suffice to say they are all far, far more wittier and au courant than I could ever hope to be.

As for this blog and mnyself, I don't expect to see much traffic, for I haven't really anything interesting to say. Removing the "editor's voice" of the prospective reader, then, I shall post what blatherings I feel like. Sadly, this may seem a tad commercial at times, for much of my time in Second Life is spent creating toys that I share with others via the time honoured method of hawking them shamelessly. On the other hand, it is far more likely I shall post daily for a week or two, then give up the enterprise entirely, leaving this blog thingee to languish like a once favourite stuffed animal on the top shelf of my bookcase (pauses a moment to pet "Mrs. Lambkins" out of a sense of guilt).

But you aren't really there, nor are you reading this, are you?


Today finds me having just put down the money (a little over 12,000 Linden dollars) for two new plots in the new Caledon simulation of Steam City. It will be wonderfully "SteamPunk"--a flying fortress right out of Girl Genius comics, and I with a little shop next to the aircraft hangar. I plan on being able to fly my Steam Ornithopter right out that lovely gaping door over the vast blue beneath. Hopefully, scripting skills permitting, I shall have demo Ornithopters that visitors can "rez" out there in the hangar. I do want to make sure silly visitors do not clutter the place up with all those demos, though. That sort of thing makes for letters from one's hangar mates (if that is the term).

(Edit: I've learnt how to insert pictures in the middle of a blog entry! Ha! Soon I shall rule the world...not that I want to, mind you. A bit of a bother. Ah, but the Ornithopter Picture)

I ought then be making lots of Steamy Devices. But that isn't what I've been up to at all. This week has found me busy making avatar bodies instead. To wit, I found myself with the inexplicable desire to make Centaurs. In fact, I have spent a bit of time with four hooves in the last week. It's rather fun, though I must admit, poor Pudding (my faithful Roan from AKK stables) has been a bit neglected. Well, why should she have all the fun of galloping?

Here's some pictures (one must have pictures on a blog, correct?). It was hardly easy, and without the scripting help of Professor Alphonso Avalanche and Mr. Ged Larsen, the poor beasties would have still been stumbling about in odd logic loops (how was I supposed to know that "State Running" encompases standing still?). Duchess Kamilah Hauptmann generously provided her calm, patient advice on how to use animations, in addition to crafting the animations for the human half. Me? Well, I just fiddled until it looked and worked right.

(Sorry if NONE of that made any sense to you non-Second Life players. But no one is reading this--almost forgot that!)

Right. Pictures (A bit scandalous, the clothing of the "for sale" avatars. But centaurs are not known for their modesty. Unless they are Victorian Centaurs :))